Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans

Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans

Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans

Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans

Synopsis

Nazi Terror tackles the central aspect of the Nazi dictatorship head on by focusing on the roles of the individual and of society in making terror work. Based on years of research in Gestapo archives, on more than 1,100 Gestapo and "special court" case files, and on surveys and interviews with German perpetrators, Jewish victims and ordinary Germans who experienced the Third Reich firsthand, Johnson's book settles many nagging questions about who, exactly, was responsible for what, who knew what, and when they knew it. Nazi Terror is the most fine-grained portrait we may ever have of the mechanism of terror in a dictatorship.

Excerpt

Researching and writing this book have consumed nearly a decade of my life. It has been a momentous time for me and my family. During this period my father died, my wife's father died, and both our children were born. It has also been a momentous time in German and European history. The Berlin Wall and Communist regimes in eastern Europe fell; Germany became a nation again; western and central Europejoined closer together in a monetary union; and racial hatred reappeared on the European continent and took the lives of thousands in the Balkans. Although I am happy to be back home once again in the United States, I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to spend much of the last decade living in Germany and elsewhere in Europe where I conducted almost all of the research and did much of the writing of this book.

I began working on it in the fall of 1989 when a Fulbright Fellowship brought me to the University of Cologne as a visiting professor to research what I then expected to be a moderate-sized book on the topic of "ordinary justice in Nazi Germany." Soon I discovered that there was very little that was "ordinary" about Nazi justice and that there was no way that I could complete the research on my subject within the year of my fellowship. Luckily I managed to persuade other fellowship-granting organizations-- most notably the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation--that they too should support my research on a topic and a book that had rapidly become much larger than I had originally planned. Hence one year of research in Germany mushroomed into six, and it was not until the summer of 1995 that my wife and I and our two young sons finally returned from Cologne to the United States, where I was to begin writing this book. As was the case with the research on my book, I greatly underestimated how long it would take for me to write it, and the year that I originally thought it would take became four.

Just before our family flew home, our colleagues and friends at the Cen-

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